The Government is set to develop a new SME policy as part of its Future Jobs initiative.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Business Minister Heather Humphreys and Junior Business Minister Pat Breen announced the move at a conference on Ireland’s SME and entrepreneurship strategy with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Friday.
SMEs, policy makers and international experts attended the conference in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium to discuss a draft roadmap for the policy, which was prepared by the OECD.
The conference was the culmination of a consultation exercise with the international organisation which will feed into the creation of the new policy.
The completed review will be published in October.
It will include comparisons with international best practice and recommendations aimed at helping the Government develop the new policy.
The ministers also announced two new funds worth a total of 3 million euro to enhance productivity at the country’s smallest indigenous firms.
The measures form part of the Government’s Future Jobs initiative to prepare the economy, businesses and workers for the future.
Mr Varadkar said small and medium enterprises form the backbone of local communities, with 70% of all people employed in Ireland working at an SME.
He told the event: “Every generation needs to shake up its enterprise and business model, otherwise it stagnates, or even falls back.
“We need to change the way we work. As a country we need to see lifelong learning as the norm so we are adaptable to new technology and sectors. So we have committed to doubling our Lifelong Learning rate by 2025.
“I want Ireland to be a country that works to live, not lives to work.”
Ms Humphreys said: “Future Jobs Ireland is about securing Ireland’s economic success by protecting the hard-won gains of recent years. As we approach full employment, it is time to shift our jobs focus.
“It is no longer just a question of more jobs, instead we must focus on growing highly productive businesses that will sustain the jobs of tomorrow.
“Ultimately we want to increase the living standards and quality of life of our people and increasing productivity levels is necessary to achieve this goal.
“Typically, our foreign-owned firms are highly productive, however in recent years we have seen a decline in productivity in indigenous SMEs. We want to close this gap and our new SME policy will help us to do that.”
Ms Humphreys said the new funds are being made available to enhance the productivity of firms in every region.
They include a 2.5 million euro competitive fund and a 500,000 euro productivity challenge fund.
She added: “As we work to boost productivity levels in our enterprise base, these new funds, combined with existing supports, will ensure that we can reach even the smallest business in the most rural area.
“Supporting micro-businesses right across the country will be central to our success.”